An August 2004 trip
to San Diego by VickiFunes
Quote: San Diego is home to some world-class fun, like Sea World, Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, and its sister, Wildlife Park. But, if you're like me, not every vacation day can be an expensive, "major attraction" day. Here are enjoyable, but less expensive, touring ideas I like--maybe you will, too.
Attraction | "Belmont Park at Mission Beach"
Belmont Park's main attraction is the Giant Dipper roller coaster. What a history this ride has! It actually opened way back in 1925! (That's when this amusement park originally opened.) The original park was popular for several decades, and then---as things tend to do---went downhill and eventually closed. The Giant Dipper was slated for destruction in the 1980s, but a group of sentimental, concerned citizens banded together to save the coaster. In a remarkable civic effort, they were able to get the Dipper designated as a National Landmark, and thus immune to the bulldozer. Financial backing was found, the coaster received a $2 million restoration, new rides were installed in the rest of the park, and voila! The shiny new Belmont Park reopened in 1990 and made a big hit with locals and tourists alike. You must be 50 inches tall to ride the Giant Dipper, but there are rides for the younger crowd as well. The Liberty Carousel is open to all ages and is a reproduction of an antique carousel, copied from photos in San Diego archives. Two "kiddie rides" include the Crazy Submarine (which takes kids up into the air and back down again in a circular motion) and the Thunder Boats (a kiddie boat ride). Guests 42 inches and above may ride: (1) the Vertical Plunge, a small "tower" ride that lifts riders up high, then drops them down again quickly (2) the Raceway Bumper Cars, though you must be 52 inches tall to do the driving (3) the traditional Tilt-a-Whirl (go-round-and-round ride) and (4) the Krazy Kars, a ROUND type of bumper car that also spins. For those 50 inches and taller, there's Chaos, a ride with cars that spin individually while the whole ride itself is going up into the air and revolving in a circle. Wild!
Also, new for 2005 is the Beach Blaster, another ride that spins you around, but this time, as you hang in a "suspended" ski-chair type of car, you swing from side to side like a pendulum! There are several extra-fee attractions, such as the Family Fun Arcade, offering video games, air hockey, and pinball machines. There's a rock-climbing wall and a trampoline. The Plunge swimming pool is another option. My favorite to watch (but not try!) is The Flow Rider, a wave machine that sends a never-ending wave for surfers to ride. I always wanted to learn to surf! So, I had some vicarious fun watching the surfers on this one!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 2, 2005
Belmont Park on Mission Beach
3190 Mission Boulevard
San Diego, California 92109
Attraction | "Scenic Harbor Island and Shelter Island"
How do you find them? From the famous Embarcadero area, just take Harbor Drive north and follow the signs. The Embarcadero has a visitor center where you can pick up a map. The map will show you how to find the two islands, plus a lot more. The islands are just two stops along a 59-MILE scenic car-tour route of San Diego! The scenic route is marked with blue-and-yellow signs, supposedly every quarter-mile, but some of the signs are missing, so it's better to have a map! After passing Harbor and Shelter Islands, the scenic route will take you by Point Loma, the Cabrillo National Monument, Ocean Beach, Mission Bay, and La Jolla before doubling back towards downtown and ending, once again, at the Embarcadero.
I've taken most of the 59-mile drive, and I can vouch for the fact that IF you like scenery, you'll LIKE this drive! As far as the two islands go, if you only have time to see one of them, I'd suggest Harbor Island. Even though they're both great, the views of downtown San Diego are so spectacular from Harbor Island and, even more importantly, it's the more tranquil of the two.
North Harbor Island Drive
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 291 6700
Attraction | "Balboa Park's plethora of activities"
First of all, the park has all the usual attractions that any city park has--children's playgrounds, sports fields, places to picnic, spacious green lawns for Frisbee, and trails for hiking and biking. Then there are a few more unusual activities: a dog park, lawn bowling, golf courses, a kiddie train and carousel, a puppet theater, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, and a rose garden. Last, we get to the category of "completely-one-of-a-kind" items, the biggest of these being Museum Row. There are more museums than anyone could tour in DAYS! But, even just touring the outside of the buildings is a day-trip in itself. They're such lovely buildings, I just wanted to linger, stare, and take photos of them. These Spanish Colonial-style buildings were built originally for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, but they've been painstakingly cared for throughout the years, so that they're still as beautiful now as when the fair first opened! Or, more so because of the beautiful, mature landscaping that adorns each of them.
There are 10 museums alone that deal with various arts and cultures, plus three science museums (Aerospace, Natural History, and Reuben Fleet Science Center). Plus, there are museums covering anthropology, model railroading, sports, cars, San Diego history, international relations, and veteran's affairs. There are four theaters, including the gorgeous Casa del Prado and the Old Globe, a reproduction of the famous English original. Completing the picture are grand fountains, a Japanese garden, and a large pipe organ that gives free concerts every Sunday afternoon. At this point, I'm totally stumped as to what I'll try to see next whenever I return to Balboa Park! There are just too many possibilities!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 2, 2005
1549 El Prado
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 239 0512
The mission's beautiful bell tower is probably the first thing that you'll notice about the building as you arrive. It still has one of its original bells--the large bell with a "crown" on it. Bells were important to mission life back before timepieces were readily available. The ringing of the bells called the mission's occupants to church services, work, and meals. One part of the mission that I felt was really special was Father Serra's quarters. Father Serra was the religious leader of the expedition whose goal was to establish a chain of missions in California. (This humble room was amazing to be in, just knowing the importance it held to California's history.) Eventually, there came to be 21 missions, each established at approximately one day's journey from the one before it.
Today, Mission San Diego also features lovely gardens planted with Western flora and featuring religious statues. Your self-guided tour begins and ends in the gift shop, which helps raise money for the continued care of the Mission buildings. Admission is $3/adults and $1/children. No food or drink is sold or permitted at the Mission.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 3, 2005
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala
10818 San Diego Mission Road
San Diego, California 92108
+1 619 281 8449
The attractive building is actually a museum, the Junipero Serra Museum, named after the Franciscan friar who led the religious portion of the expedition to California (that resulted in the founding of 21 missions spread out--a day's journey apart--between San Diego and San Francisco.) Presidio Hill was also the site of the original 1769 Mission San Diego, which soon moved to its own site further inland. Excavations at the park continue so that further remnants of the past can be discovered. Inside the Serra museum are house wares and other artifacts relating to various periods of San Diego's history: Native American, Spanish, independent Mexico, and finally, American. The museum's cost is $5/adults and $2/children. (The park's grounds, however, are free.)
The park itself is quite large, so if you have come to picnic or stroll, you may wish to drive along the park's loop-shaped road first (so you can preview the entire park and decide which part you'd best like to explore.) Several parts of the park have formal names. There's Inspiration Point at the hill's summit, where you can get an outstanding view of Mission Valley and Mission Bay below. Back down the hill, there's Palm Canyon, an area that has lush landscaping, with plenty of palms, as the name suggests. It's adjacent to the Eucalyptus Grove, which features the fragrant eucalyptus tree. The Padre Cross is an area featuring a cross built in 1913 and made out of floor tile pieces from the original Presidio. In this area, you'll find trails and other statuary. The Arbor, of course, is a supportive structure for plants, and it's a beautiful example of an arbor. When you're finished seeing the museum, taking your stroll, and eating your picnic, you might wish to visit the Old Town State Historic Park, featuring homes and stores from San Diego of the past, which is only a few blocks away from Presidio Park.
2811 Jackson St.
San Diego, California 92110
Attraction | "Old Town San Diego State Historic Park"
Many of the old buildings in the state park contain shops selling trinkets to the visitors. Sure, the buildings themselves are authentic, but the stores inside them aren't. In fact, the stores get in the way of one of my favorite activities at a historic park, which is trying to imagine what it would have been like to live in that place and time.
Nevertheless, the Historic Park has many good points. It is quite large, and you could spend all day there--or more--if you were to examine every building and exhibit thoroughly. The park consists of restored homes and businesses situated around a LARGE public square, the Plaza de las Armas. One interesting old building is the San Diego Union Printing Office. Wood was scarce in old San Diego. Most of the original buildings were made of sun-dried adobe. Yet, this building—and some of the others—is a wooden structure that looks like it belongs in New England. Well, that's because this building DID come from New England! It was prefabricated in Maine, then shipped around Cape Horn. What a story! You'll also visit a school, a blacksmith shop, stables (with an old-fashioned carriage display), a wood shop, a sheriff's museum, and a dental display. There are original homes and also original businesses, such as the Colorado House, which was a hotel, saloon, and gambling hall. (It now houses a Wells Fargo History Museum.) There's the interesting Casa de Estudillo (es-too-DEE-oh), which once was the home of the commandant at the nearby Presidio. There are restaurants, but these, too, are in a state of flux as the park prepares to "authenticize" further. Entrance to the park and exhibits is free.
California State of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
4002 Wallace St
San Diego, California 92110